The next sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion is in our hands

How to sur­vive the pan­dem­ic when you’re home alone and horny

5 minute read
For some people, celibacy may be an unfortunate side effect of COVID-19, but don’t despair. (Photo by Alaina Johns.)
For some people, celibacy may be an unfortunate side effect of COVID-19, but don’t despair. (Photo by Alaina Johns.)

Dear single Philadelphians: to paraphrase The Simpsons’ Mayor Quimby, I know we’re all frightened and horny right now. Adjusting to life in quarantine is rough, but if you’re at home by yourself and/or separated from your partner(s), things can be even more difficult.

Sex and mental health

The absence of touch from a fellow human, and not knowing when you’ll go on dates or have sex again, can be a big challenge for your mental and sexual health. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find new ways to channel your desires and enjoy sex on your own. Philly is full of people with the advice you need.

Pro tip up front: if you have the resources (here’s help if you’re uninsured), connecting with a therapist now is a grand idea, even if you think you're doing okay and shudder at the thought of discussing your goals for a fulfilling solo sex life with a professional. We may be #AloneTogether, but we're also being traumatized AF by the collapse of our economy, our healthcare system, and our social lives. Plus, a therapist (especially one specializing in sexual wellness) can advise you on navigating future sexual relationships when you can roam freely again.

Step 1: Use your head

“The mind is the largest and most important sex organ in the body, so imagining what you might like is half the fun,” said Kali Morgan, owner of PASSIONAL Boutique & Sexploratorium near Head House Square, via a Google Hangouts chat with her team.

During the quarantine, they’re answering questions and sharing advice for the sexually curious through PASSIONAL’s website and by phone. And there's same-day delivery service to customers who live within 15 miles of the store. PASSIONAL is also facilitating online editions of its classes, from “Masturbation as Self-Love” to “Talk Dirty” (which recently featured an ASL translator so that participants could learn how to chat dirty via sign language), as well as weekly Toy Tuesday conversations on PASSIONAL’s Instagram account.

When it comes to doing research on your own, check out different forms of erotica (books, music, and art). Following the work of Philly’s finest burlesque artists can also prove enlightening, like Honeytree EvilEye, Mae Rose, Thurston Trapp, and Alabaster Stone.

Author and Erotic Literary Salon leader Dr. Susana Mayer says give yourself permission to get sexy on the page. (Image courtesy of Susana Mayer.)
Author and Erotic Literary Salon leader Dr. Susana Mayer says give yourself permission to get sexy on the page. (Image courtesy of Susana Mayer.)

"Alex" Caroline Robboy, founder and executive director of Philly’s Center for Growth, is a licensed sex therapist who has noticed a dramatic increase in calls to her practice since the quarantine began. “What’s been most interesting is the number of new clients who call because they have sexual issues—like pain during sex or because they have never had an orgasm—that they want to work through, now that they finally have the space, the privacy, and the time,” she told BSR. “Having someone like a therapist to walk through these issues and questions with makes it a much less isolating experience.”

Porn can be a helpful resource, too, but with caution, according to Robboy. Porn websites are set up to encourage viewers to keep watching video after video, which can pose a problem to individuals experiencing obsessive compulsion, she advised.

Step 2: Get down and dirty with words

Dr. Susana Mayer, author of Does Sex Have an Expiration Date? and organizer of Philly’s largest erotic literary Meetup, believes that writing down fantasies and even turning them into erotic stories is a healthy exercise in self-care.

“Give yourself permission to write, and acknowledge the shame you may be feeling,” she said by phone. “So many people have such shame around talking or writing about sex, and there is nothing shameful about erotica.” Mayer hosts a monthly Erotic Literary Salon where Philadelphians can participate as writers, readers, spoken-word performers, or just listeners. The format has adapted to the pandemic and is now hosted online.

If you decide to share your erotic writing or form an erotic writing club during the pandemic, Mayer suggests having ground rules so that everyone’s boundaries are respected. “I recommend having guidelines around confidentiality,” she said. “If your fellow writers feel uneasy about sharing their work for feedback, you can encourage them to submit anonymously.”

If writing down your fantasies isn’t your speed, dirty talk is another option. “Practice dirty talk in the mirror,” shared Steph, a team member from PASSIONAL. "Say what you want aloud, or describe what you're doing while masturbating.”

Author and Erotic Literary Salon leader Dr. Susana Mayer says give yourself permission to get sexy on the page. (Image courtesy of Susana Mayer.)
Author and Erotic Literary Salon leader Dr. Susana Mayer says give yourself permission to get sexy on the page. (Image courtesy of Susana Mayer.)

Step 3: Sex goes solo

There’s some evidence that masturbation has health benefits, from a boosted immune system to pain relief and reduced blood pressure. So the next time you’re feeling stressed or loneliness is getting the better of you, take five and enjoy some alone time with your hands or your favorite sex toy. If you're not sure how to get started or need pointers, Robboy recommends books like Becoming Orgasmic, which has a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Whether you’re new to the self-love game or an old hand trying something different, Steph from PASSIONAL suggests paying attention to signals your body is giving you.

“The main tip I give people, especially in regards to orgasm, is breathe. You need to listen to your body and your mind, and respect your boundaries,” they shared.

And if all this doesn’t convince you to have a solo afternoon delight, take your cue from the Philadelphia Public Health Department's official Sex During COVID-19 fact sheet: masturbation is your safest option for sexual activity during the pandemic.

The payoff

So don’t despair, fellow solo isolationists of Philadelphia. Your commitment to public health and safety will pay off someday—maybe even in the form of a new sexual revolution where we can ditch puritanical attitudes and have open conversations about sexual pleasure (Philly sex educator Erica Smith offers inclusive online sessions geared to those recovering from purity culture). My hope is that a new wave of sex-positive feminism captures our collective imagination in the bedroom, where partners can ask for what they want and receive it in equal measure.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll use this time to get in touch with your feelings and your body. Having a fulfilling relationship with yourself is great on its own. It also empowers you to have a similar kind of relationship with another person. In the immortal words of RuPaul, “If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Join the Conversation